The good news about winters in Austin is that they tend to be quite mild. Fortunately, weather-related problems like frozen pipes, icy walkways, and snow-covered driveways are extreme rarities here in central Texas. However, in January and February, there are a few changing conditions we all have to adjust to -- especially after the sun goes down!
Simple Ways to Winterize
With temperatures sometimes dipping into the forties overnight, it does pay to have your furnace or boiler inspected and professionally tuned up. Ideally, HVAC systems should be serviced once or twice a year, and filters replaced on an as-needed basis. Although it might seem like an unnecessary expense, preventative maintenance can extend the life of your furnace, your hot water heater, and other appliances and mechanical systems you depend on.
If you happen to enjoy the comfort of a crackling fireplace on those chilly winter evenings, it’s always a good idea to have your chimney professionally cleaned and inspected. How often you have to do it depends on its current condition, what kind of wood you burn, and how frequently you use your fireplace. Having it cleaned and checked every few years can prevent creosote buildup and other potential fire hazards. This is another example of good preventative maintenance and how it can keep your home safe, comfortable, and running efficiently.
During those occasional periods when you need to throw on a sweater or an extra blanket to stay warm, there are several ways to reduce drafts in your home, control heating bills, and stay comfortable.
One method involves sealing gaps around windows and doors with caulking material or weather stripping. If there’s a gap under your outside doors, you can also easily attach a door sweep (also called a draft stopper) at the bottom of your door to help prevent cold air from seeping in. In addition to helping to keep cold air out, these inexpensive strips of aluminum, plastic, rubber, or other material can also be useful in discouraging mice, ants, and other insects from sneaking in.
If mice are a concern, selecting a durable material for your door sweeps – one that cannot be easily chewed – is recommended! And speaking of rodents, a quick visual inspection of the exterior of your home or rental property in the early winter months is advisable and could reveal potential entryways for mice to gain access.
Since mice are not big fans of the cold weather, they’re a lot more likely in January and February to seek refuge in your garage, basement, or attic. Locating and sealing those outside holes will be a deterrent to their unwanted visits! If you do happen to see droppings or any other evidence of rodents, strategically placed mousetraps, usually along walls, can keep the problem in check.
Avoiding Water Damage
Other property maintenance ideas for January might include cleaning your rain gutters to make sure water flows freely along the edge of your roof. If allowed to back up and overflow, rainwater can gradually damage your foundation, flower beds, and roof soffit. Directing rainwater away from your home can help avoid an array of problems, including a leaky basement, mold growth, and wood rot. Standing water is also thought to be a prime breeding ground for mosquitos.
Another preventative measure to consider at this time of year is the installation of a sump pump. Since Austin is “one of the most flood prone areas in North America,” it makes sense to have a detailed plan for staying safe, minimizing potential damage, and protecting your property. Having a dependable working sump in your home or rental property can be one facet of that plan.